Pirates knock off Ridgewood in rivalry game with bigger stakes

Pirates knock off Ridgewood in rivalry game with bigger stakes

Image Credit: Dave Mast

Just like it had done in week 10 of the regular season, Garaway hosted Ridgewood on Friday, Nov. 4, but this time it was for something greater, a chance to advance to regionals in Div. V.

The Pirates looked like they just might run all over the Generals in the early going.

On Garaway’s opening drive, the Pirates rolled downfield and put up a score when Logan Yoder connected with Ethan Miller on a 24-yard touchdown catch and run for a 7-0 lead.

After stymieing Ridgewood and forcing a punt, Miller drug four would-be tacklers along for the ride for an 18-yard run, setting up Yoder’s 22-yard scoring strike to Alexander Roden for a 14-0 lead.

On Ridgewood’s ensuing possession, Pirates’ cornerback Ty Winters picked off a Josiah Cahill pass and roared 36 yards, breaking several tackles en route to a pick six that pushed the Pirates’ lead to 21-0, and the first quarter had yet to reach its end.

The route was on. Only nobody told the Generals.

Ridgewood dug its heels in on defense after that, and Garaway would not produce a single point over the final three quarters.

However, Garaway’s record-setting defense wasn’t budging either, and the teams entered the locker room with that same 21-0 score.

“With the way our defense has played this season, to go up two scores early was a nice luxury, but to tack on the pick-six really put us in the driver’s seat,” Garaway head coach Jason Wallick said. “Having played them in week 10, we felt they might come at us with a bunch of new gadgets and trick plays. We weren’t quite sure what to expect.”

Ridgewood then took the second-half kick and starting picking apart the Pirates’ stout run defense. With Cahill and Kauelen Smith hammering out chunk gains of 4 or 5 yards per clip, the Generals were finding success.

Driving downfield, they reached Garaway’s 13-yard line, where they hoped to put an end to a string of 10 games in which the Garaway defense hadn’t allowed a touchdown.

Instead, the Generals found heartache.

On second and 7, a bad snap forced Cahill to jump on the ball at the 20, where Payton Keller, who had an outstanding game, jumped on top of him. Later, on fourth down, Caleb Miller jumped a route and swatted away the pass to end Ridgewood’s hopes.

“We knew at the half we had to get tougher, had to play harder and get our mindset right,” Ridgewood head coach John Slusser said. “If we don’t mess up that snap, I think we score there, and maybe that makes things a lot more interesting. That was tough.”

“That was a big stop for us,” Alexander Roden said. “I think that really slowed their momentum.”

Garaway appeared to put the game on ice for good when Brady Roden hauled in a Yoder offering and raced 83 yards to pay-dirt, but a penalty wiped away that score, and the Pirates were forced to punt.

“I thought we got a little complacent in the second half,” Wallick said. “We lost a huge punt return and Brady’s long score on penalties, and it didn’t feel like we played with the same intensity we needed to play with.”

Again, Ridgewood employed a strong running game up the middle of the field, and this time it finally did break Garaway’s string of games without allowing a touchdown when Cahill plowed in from 1 yard out.

The extra point was missed, and with 7:25 to play, Ridgewood had a flicker of hope.

The Generals’ defense again held fast, but so too did Garaway’s, and with time of the essence, Ridgewood forced Garaway into a third-and-long play. Yoder scrambled away from three charging pass rushers and uncorked a high deep ball that found the waiting hands of Jenson Garber, who hauled it in. Miller crushed through the line for another first down, and the Pirates were able to fend off the Generals again.

“We will look at film, and there’s plenty to watch, but right now it’s all about moving on,” Wallick said. “There are no style points, and we’ll get some things fixed before our next game.”

Two for the record book

Never before has Garaway defeated Ridgewood twice in the same season.

However, despite the intense rivalry, Wallick said the coaching staff worked diligently to make this just another game.

“After practice last night, we told the kids this is just another high school football game,” Wallick said. “I said, ‘What time is walk-through tomorrow? 5:00. What time is game time? 7:00.’ Why? Because it’s another high school football game.

“We feel as coaches that we get our kids prepared every week to play a nameless, faceless opponent. That’s the way we feel. It’s about preparing, and every game is a special game. We didn’t have to hype this game up because our kids know every game is important.”

A scoring defense

Garaway’s defense has been a scoring machine this season, scoring more points than it has given up. That trend continued with Winters’ pick-six, and he said the defensive backs have a fun competition going on interceptions, but what really matters is the win.

“That put us in the best position possible,” Winters said of the play. “I love doing something great for the team. We do have a little competition, but to me, this was more about going out, doing our best and getting the win any way we could.”

Creating a big gap

Against a Ridgewood team that thrives on the running game and defense, the Pirates knew a big start would put the Generals in a tough spot. The 21-0 lead was just too much for Ridgewood to get back, especially against this rugged Pirates defense.

“That start was so big for us,” said Alexander Roden, who pushed the Pirates’ early lead to 14-0. “It was the jump-start we needed to have to put pressure on them.”

Digging in

With the horrible start, Ridgewood could have folded but instead showed the same competitive attitude that has made Slusser’s program one of the premier programs in the area.

“Obviously, things didn’t start the way we wanted,” Slusser said. “It looked like the route was on, but credit to our kids. They kept coming back and fighting to the end. Garaway’s got a really good team and a great program, but so do we, and I’m proud of our kids.”